THE ART OF BECOMING A COP
When you take a big city exam, you are among a large group of candidates who dream of passing and moving on to become law enforcement officers. During the psychological, physical fitness and drug tests, you can’t wait to enter training. Upon setting foot in the police academy, you can’t wait to graduate and hit the streets.
Feeling great, you show up early to your first roll call in a crisp uniform and think, “I finally made it!”
Then reality sets in.
You realize you have no clue where to sit, with whom to talk, who you will partner up with or who your bosses will be.
Remember, those seasoned officers were once in your spot. You can gain an enormous amount of knowledge and wisdom by simply asking veteran officers in roll call questions that were not on the state exam. You will get the (ugly) truth and realities of the job and further, the veteran officers may be impressed that you asked.
Today, too many officers enter law enforcement with several college degrees and think they know more than the salty veterans. However, the gray haired officers with a pound or two of extra weight, have a “doctorate of the streets” which is more valuable and expensive than most university diplomas. Their experience with, and understanding of, human behavior is superior to what most professors, politicians or academics could impart.
A (salty) veteran officer with whom I had the pleasure of working and whom who I grew to admire, told me when we first starting working together, “Kid, I forgot more than you know.” His wisdom and knowledge of the job was unbelievable. He was like my professor and I was his student.
I soaked up stories and listened to his advice. We shared laughs as I watched him. I learned an enormous amount of family life skills on top of skills I would use in law enforcement. He jokingly once told me, “You don’t get scared until I get scared,” meaning keep your composure.
Many young officers take for granted the experience and understanding veteran officers possess. Never should you feel awkward asking advice from those veterans who work with you. Veteran officers have experienced so much in their careers, it’s a shame that young recruits coming out of the academy don’t solicit their opinions more often.
Humble yourself and ask. I’ve seen young watch commanders come out of their respective offices and ask seasoned veterans for advice and opinions. Officers, or anyone asking for help, may think it’s a sign of weakness. Some may see it as being inadequate, or some other insulting label which comes to mind.
The reality is that asking for help does not indicate anything about you. It simply means we need help in a specific situation at a specific time. It is not a reflection of our character or capabilities. It’s a sign of strength.
The next time you are in a situation, know that asking someone else can benefit you both! Recognize that by asking a fellow officer, you are boosting his confidence. There will be good feelings between you two and you will get the help you need.
For those of you who have the pleasure of working with veteran officers on your shift, keep in mind they are a wealth of knowledge. Their uniforms might not look pristine and their hair maybe uncombed and gray. But the understanding, insight and wisdom they have is priceless. Next time you have a question, don’t be afraid to ask!
At the bottom line, it’s all about saving just ONE life.
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